The rapid expansion of Greece’s homegrown neo-nazi movement, the Golden Dawn, should set alarm bells ringing for anti-fascists across Europe. On Saturday, 19th January, Athens will see a massive anti-fascist demonstration as over 24 organisations spanning the political spectrum assemble. Greek anti-fascists have called for international solidarity and on the same day demonstrations will be held outside Greek embassies across the world.
“For 25 years Golden Dawn were a marginal group that attacked small left-wing and anarchist groups and sometimes attack immigrants. Until a few years ago they never had more than 200 members. The Greek Government then paved the way for xenophobic sentiment by tolerating smaller, subtler acts of racism against individuals that went unchallenged. It was not until a few years ago that Golden Dawn started emerging as something bigger. Up until recently they had one office. Now, they have forty-eight”. Greek Anti-fascists.
The roots of Golden Dawn go back to 1980 when Nikolaos Michalokiakos together with his cronies launched Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) magazine. Michalokiakos had been active in far right politics for many years, serving time in July 1974 and again in December 1976 for assaults on left-wingers during demonstrations. While in prison during 1976 Michalokiakos met the leaders of the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 and drafted the foundations of the Golden Dawn party. After his release from prison he joined the army and became a Special Forces commando, but was later dishonourably discharged for his Nazi views.
In the last decade Golden Dawn had become more active against the left but was still a relatively small presence. In 2005 Golden Dawn was laughable and easily dismissed, holding marches, static demonstrations and distributing homophobic and racist literature.
Then came the economic crisis and the collapse of the Greek standard of living. The Greek economy is sinking like a stone in a neo-liberal whirlpool. Growth rates, negative at -0.2% in 2008, hit -7.1% in 2011. Unemployment hit a record of 26% in September last year, overtaking Spain to become the highest in the eurozone. The country’s got no money: in 2011, the country’s public debt stood at €355.658 billion (170.6% of nominal GDP). All in all, the future’s looking bleak. The average wage is 800 euros a month, which is nowhere near enough to meet the cost of living. In fact even a good salary of 2000 euros a month, which is way above the national average, still results in spending more than you earn. The average salary in Greece shrank 23% in the last year. For years Greeks have being labelled as lazy by international press at a time when there are no jobs in Greece to be lazy at and those employed work for pittance. Mixed with the decline in living standards, Greek national pride has been seriously dented. All the factors together have resulted in a perfect Stormfront.
Until recently, oppositon to the IMF-imposed austerity measures came from the left, but Golden Dawn vowed to defend the Greek populace “from the dark centres of power” who sought to enslave them. “Resist the selling off of our country” reads their website – the austerity measures are then blamed on immigrants.
Their current home page auto-flicks through five images, each touching on various hot topics. One image is full of AK-47’s, bullets and wads of cash with the headline “Immeasurable threat for Greece: the Albanian Mafia”. Another image shows a caricature sketch of an emaciated Greek citizen being squeezed through an apple press as coins fall out of his pocket and a fat aristocratic figure stands by representing the Troika with the words “With a new, secret agenda the Troika is fixing its own state”.
GD politicians have demonstrated their willingness to crack down on left unionism, true to the spirit of fascism. Independent journalist Yiannis Baboulias, writing in Occupied Times, relates an incident occurring in the town of Loutraki. Strikers had blocked the road leading up to the local casino as a result of their union dispute with the management. Accompanied by ten bouncers, the new Golden Dawn MP Efstathios Boukouras threatened the strikers, saying, “We won’t allow the communists to do as they please”.
The party has also spread its sticky tentacles into the business sphere – thanks to its links with the Greek elites, the party is able to act as a financial supporter and provider during the time of crisis. Golden Dawn funds have been pulling ailing football clubs out of debt, and actively supported the Bank of Piraeus to acquire Agrotiki (a state-run bank) – though it’s suspected of using dubiously acquired state funds to do so. So what is the connection between Golden Dawn and the Bank of Piraeus? Only that Takis Michaloliakos, the bank’s lawyer, happens to be the brother of Golden Dawn supremo, Nikos Michaloliakos.
During a session in the Greek Parliament on 7th November, Golden Dawn vetoed a proposed tax increase on earnings from shipping-related activities. Shipping in Greece, a maritime nation, is huge business – in fact 20% of global shipping is run by Greek companies. (The owners of shipping concerns are in the upper echelons of Greek business circles and are unbelievably lucky when it comes to tax.)
But despite this pandering to the elite, Golden Dawn have actively been presenting themselves as the allies of the common man – well the common Greek. In a simple and effective move they have set up food kitchens. Their first time was outside the Greek Parliament where the message to the citizens would have been clear about who was looking after them in their time of need. The only prequisite for a meal? A Greek passport.
This is the trick of fascism of course – in a moment of crisis big business turns to the far-right to pacify the workers one way or the other. Desperation and a feeling of helplessness in the large percentage of the Greek population that are not generally active in politics has led to increased support for Golden Dawn. Its pseudo anti-capitalist stance might not trick a seasoned anarchist, but it speaks to the heart of many working class people that have been suffering in the hands of neo-liberalism.
Golden Dawn are also heavily favoured by the Greek police. Polling data revealed that nearly half of the police voted for Golden Dawn in recent elections. Allegations of collaboration between elements of the state and the fascist group stretch back years. On the 9th July, 2009 the second mass protest march in a week took to the streets of Athens against State-sponsored racism and police collaboration with fascist groups in the area of Agios Panteleimonas. The march was organised by the left and saw over 5,000 protesters demonstrate outside Parliament. On the same day, after meeting with the Minister of Public Order, fascist vigilante groups in Agios Panteleimonas attacked one of the oldest anarchist squats, Villa Amalias.
That day, the Minister of Public Order, Markoyannakis (also known for his involvement in a huge Siemens scandal in Greece and his pro-Nazi views) met with Golden Dawn members. Twenty minutes after the meeting a group from Golden Dawn left the area of Agios Panteleimonas and attacked the squat Villa Amalias with molotov cocktails and other projectiles. The attack was successfully resisted by anarchists, leaving the fascists running behind their police mates (who just happened to be there) for protection. This incident clearly indicated how close the links between the state, the police and the fascist group are. This was also the first time since the junta that a Minister met with a fascist combat group. Greek media did not report the event.
Villa Amalias was evicted by the Greek police on 20th December 2012. They used the classic pretext of suspected drug dealing to enter and search the premises with a district attorney in tow. Later, the minister of public order, Dendias, announced that their findings “prove [d] that Villa was an epicentre for lawlessness for 22 years and that the law has finally been restored, thanks to the will of Samaras (PM)”. The raid also uncovered some empty beer bottles that were obviously “materials for the construction of molotovs” and nothing to do with the gig and café space in the squat. Eight people were arrested during the raid and taken to court the next day where they were charged with felonies for the possession of empties, or “material for the construction of explosives” as they are legally known.
Faced with this onslaught, Greek anti-fascists have had to pick up the pace. Demonstrations, gigs and ad-hoc attacks are no longer enough. Anti-fascists have set up and maintained motorbike patrols to guard the streets and people from Nazi thugs. The patrols became necessary due to the level of racist and anti-leftist attacks in the neighbourhoods and provinces of Athens at the hands of fascists and police (not mutually exclusive) that always went unpunished.
Attacks on Golden Dawn offices have become commonplace. Anti-fascists have used fire, stones, molotov cocktails and even dynamite against the fascists’ HQ, although bombings were accompanied by warning phone calls. Violent confrontations between anti-fascists and fascists happen often on the streets but one thing is for sure: whenever the police are present, Golden Dawn can rely on back up. Indeed, arrested anti-fascists have been subjected to the kind of abuses suffered by dissidents under the military junta.
On the 24th August, 2012 anti-fascists and immigrants united to stand up against the tyranny that was unfolding under operation “Xenios Zeus”. Greek and non-Greek citizens stood together to show the minister of public order that they were not afraid of the violent mob attacks. Again, on the 28th October, teachers, students and anti-fascists stood together on the streets and confronted the Golden Dawn during a national demo. “Neither in the parliament nor anywhere, Nazis out of our neighborhoods” shouted thousands around the country.
We leave the last word to Athens Anti-fascists: “We cannot tolerate the rich and the government that sows poverty and deprivation, which leads to suicides, sends homeless to queue at soup kitchens, putting the blame for the crisis on immigrants and turning them to scapegoats just like Hitler blamed the Jews for everything. This policy of Nazi Germany led to Dachau and Auschwitz camps, to gas chambers and the crematories with millions of dead Jews, Roma, Communists and gays. It led to the massacre of WWII and the Nazi brutalities in the occupied countries like Greece.”
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